Minimum Wage: Workers Still In Suspense

By Lateef Adegbite

In spite of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a one-time governor of Lagos state, decision to give his nod for the country’s minimum wage to be more than the N60,000 per  month, recommended by the tripartite Committee on minimum wage, the 36 states  of the Federation  that make up the Nigerian Governors’ Forum,  NGF, may appears determined to frustrate the Federal Government efforts. 

The NGF, which had been very vociferous against any minimum wage that will be be pegged by the tripartite Committee, let alone anything above it, were said to have to have sent their message to the Lagos tate born Nigerian President that the Nn60,000.00 0r N105,000.00 as being speculated in  certain quarters as the new national minimum wage is’’ unsustainable and cannot fly’’.

The argument of the governors who are opposed to the N60,000.00 or N105,000.00 being bandied about as the new national minimum wage  was that  many states  will use  their monthly  allocations  from the Federation account  to pay the state workers’ salaries and allowances, meaning that nothing will left for provision of basic infrastructural facilities like roads, educational or health facilities for use by people of the state.

Tinubu: President, Federal Republic Of Nigeria

The  governors who are opposed to a national minimum wage of N60,000.00 or anything above it as being planned by the Nigerian President, if the revelation of George Akume, the Secretary  to the Government of the Federation , SFG, is anything to go by, may have hit the nail on the head when they noted  that  ‘’the minimum wage  goes beyond payment of monthly salaries and allowances to the workers.

The aggrieved governors who had taken a cursory look at their various states of revenue were said to have made the tripartite Committee, which the Organised labour had made Nigerians to understand that it is acting out he script of the Presidency that its lean financial resource will not be able to accommodate the new national minimum wage, which the Committee had aid will be announced on Friday, June 15 ,2024. 

 The governors have their reason.  This is because of the new national minimum wage will also involve consequential adjustments  across  all cadres  of workers at the state level and the private sector including the pensioners which may not be good enough for the struggling economy  which  may be forced on its knees .

Gov. Abdurazaq: Chairman, NGF

Appealing to the tripartite Committee to think of recommending a national minimum wage  that will be in the country’s collective  interest in order to give room  for development purposes  in the states, and  if  sent to the National Assembly by the President can fly, the governors had said that  that it is the  only cannot be thrown into indefinite  industrial action  in future because of non -payment  of the new miimum wage y the states, particular, the poverty stricken state.

There are indications that only  states like Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom,  Edo, which are Niger Delta states and Lagos state, that may be able to pay the new minimum wage that may be agreed by the tripartite Committee while Yobe, Ekiti, Ondo states may not be able to do so .

Aware of the interest of the governors on the new national minimum wage and its implications to the state resources  may have informed why  the tripartite Committee members are holding  meetings behind closed doors at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, since Friday, May 31, 2024, to finalise Negotiation  and come up with a figure.

  Recall that   Wale Edun, minister of Finance  and Coordinating minister of the Economy, who had been given the Presidential  mandate to produce a template for the new minimum  national wage, had said that there was no cause for alarm over the new national minimum wage.

  It was not surprising the Finance minister, Atiku Bagudu , a former governor of Kebbi state and now minister o Budget and National Planning,   Nkiruka Onyeocha, minister of state, Labour and Employment,   Hope Uzodimma, governor of Imo state,  Director General of the NGF,  described as prominent members of the Minimum Wage Committee and others are said to be  working round the clock  to come up with a figure that will be sent to Tinubu, who in turn  will send to the National Assembly for approval before being  retransmitted to the Nigerian President’s office to be signed to Law to  become the country’s minimum wage. 

Although, Edun, the minister of Finance, had repeatedly assured workers, that there was no cause for alarm but , Festus Osifo, President of the Trade Union Congress, TUC and Joe Ajaero, his Counterpart in the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC , holds the ministerial statement with a pinch of salt.

This is because the government had failed in its promises in the past on grounds of lean financial resources. Nuhu Ribadu, an retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, and former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and now National Security Adviser, NSA, who had sad said thatTinubu had inherited a mismanaged economy from   the former President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration eight years rule may have given ammunition to the workers not to believe the Finance minister believed to talking from both sides of his mouth.

Many believe that the three tiers of government at the Federal, state and Local Government levels could accommodate the huge salaries and allowances of the Lawmakers and political appointees at the Federal and state levels with their expensive life style and those at the Local government levels, there is no basis why the Federal government should be playing politics with the new national minimum wage as  even the N60,000.00 being  bandied about  by the tripartite cannot even buy a 50Kg bag of rice, which currently sells at about 85,000.00 per bag, let alone buy half bag of beans or garri, which is locally produced over the last couple of months., for a family of six as the prices had risen astronomically .

The argument in both official and unofficial circles was that that former Lagos had given room for the workers to agitate for increased salary as the N30,000.00 national minimum wage agreed in 2019, during the Buhari’s Administration could no longer make any  impact I the lifer of the Nigerian worker because of the hasty policies that was  initiate and implemented by the Tinubu’s Administration without first settling down to study the economy  to know to go about fixing it.

Instead he had hastly announced the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, and unified the Autonomus Foreign Foreign Exchange Market, AFEM, and the Parallel or Black market exchange rates, which had triggered worsen inflation in the country as the prices of goods and went haywire.

The fallout was the agitation for salary increase by the Nigerian workers who are determined to paralyse the economy if the government cannot meet their demand. Notwithstanding a statement credited to  Halima Ahmed,  the Director of Media Affairs and Public Relations of the NGF, that the governors sympathises with he labour unions in their push  for higher wage, that may be begging the question, described as laughable by the workers.

The Leadership of the Organised labour may want the governors to keep their sympathy for themselves as they have  already declared that that they are not the side of the workers  when they had unanimously said that   the new national minimum wage, which had not b even  been agreed by the  labour cannot be accommodate  in their monthly wage bill as it will amount to  using all their monthly allocations  from the Federation account  to pay workers’ salaries and allowances, meaning that the workers will go back to the trenches., until President Tinubbu, uses his discretionary powers to resolve the national minimum wage issue.    

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